If you have a fever or any other symptoms of COVID-19 or if you have received instructions from Public Health to self-isolate because of COVID-19, you must postpone getting vaccinated.

Description

The following COVID-19 messenger RNA vaccines are currently available in Québec:

  • The Pfizer Comirnaty vaccine (adult and pediatric formula), approved for people 5 years of age and older;
  • The Moderna Spikevax vaccine, approved for people 12 years of age and older.

Although the Moderna vaccine is authorized in Canada for people 12 years of age and older, the Quebec immunization committee (CIQ) recommends preferential use of the Pfizer vaccine for people aged 12 to 29, as it may present a lower risk of pericarditis and myocarditis.

Where to get vaccinated
Go to the COVID-19 vaccination campaign page to find out the procedure for getting vaccinated.

How the vaccine works and ingredients

Vaccination prepares your body to defend itself against any microbes it may encounter.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is composed of a strand of genetic material, RNA (ribonucleic acid), surrounded by an envelope. On the surface of the virus, there are proteins, including the S protein (spike protein) which gives it its crown shape, hence its name coronavirus. The S protein allows the virus to infect cells in the human body.

COVID-19 messenger RNA vaccines block the S protein, preventing the virus from entering and infecting human cells.

The Pfizer Comirnaty vaccine contains:

  • messenger RNA;
  • lipids (ALC-0315 = ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), ALC-0159 = 2-[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine and cholesterol);
  • salts (potassium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, sodium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate) in the adult formulation only;
  • solvants (trometamol and trometamol hydrochloride ) in the pediatric formula only;
  • sugar (sucrose).

The Moderna Spikevax vaccine contains:

  • messenger RNA;
  • lipids (1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine, SM-102, polyethyleneglycol-2000 DMG (1,2-dimyristoyl-rac-glycerol, methoxy-polyethylene glycol) and cholesterol);
  • solvents (trometamol, trometamol hydrochloride, acetic acid, sodium acetate trihydrate);
  • sugar (sucrose).

Number of doses

Two doses of COVID-19 messenger RNA vaccine are required for people in good health. Both doses are administered intramuscularly.

For people with a weakened immune system or on dialysis, three doses are necessary. For further information, see the Additional dose for people on dialysis or with weakened immune systems section.

People in good health who have had COVID-19 at least 21 days before receiving the vaccine only need one dose. For more information, see Vaccination for people who have had COVID-19 on the COVID-19 vaccination page.

A booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine may be recommended for some people. See the COVID-19 vaccine booster dose section.

Interchangeability of vaccines

Age 30 and over

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are similar in terms of how they work and their ingredients. Comité sur l'immunisation du Québec (CIQ) considers the two vaccines interchangeable for people age 30 and over. People given a different vaccine for their second dose should be just as well protected as those who get the same one.

Based on the available data on vaccine interchangeability, it is recommended that the same vaccine be used for the second dose if it is readily available at the vaccination clinic. However, the CIQ states that when administering the second dose, if the messenger RNA vaccine used in the first dose is not readily available, a person may receive a different messenger RNA vaccine.

The messenger RNA vaccines are considered interchangeable and both doses received are considered valid.

Age 12 to 29

CIQ recommends that people age 12 to 29 preferably receive the Pfizer vaccine.

Age 5 to 11

For children age 5 to 11, only Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine is approved.

Vaccine efficacy

The vaccine is thought to be over 90% effective after two doses. For young people age 12 to 17, disease-prevention efficacy is 100% after 2 doses. For children age 4 to 11, efficacy is 91% with Pfizer’s pediatrics vaccine even though the concentration of messenger RNA is three times lower than in the adult formulation.

The second dose is needed to further reduce the virus’s ability to spread, extend the period of immunity, and improve the vaccine’s effectiveness, particularly against certain variants.

Efficacy after two doses of the messenger RNA vaccine in preventing disease caused by the Omicron variant is around 35%, compared 70% in preventing hospitalizations.

Vaccine safety

See the Vaccine safety section on the COVID-19 vaccination page.

Symptoms after vaccination

Vaccination may cause symptoms such as redness at the injection site. Other problems may arise by chance and are unrelated to vaccination, such as a cold or gastroenteritis.

Most reactions are mild and short-lived. Local reactions may occur up to 8 days after vaccination. Reactions are less common in children under 12 and people over 55 years of age. They are most common after the second dose.

The vaccines cannot cause COVID-19 because they do not contain the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the disease. However, a person who has been in contact with the virus in the days prior to or following vaccination may still develop COVID-19. It is important to continue to follow the health instructions until most of the population has been vaccinated.

Children age 5 to 11

Nature and frequency of known reactions to Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine in children age 5 to 11

Frequency

Known reactions to this vaccine

In most cases
(more than 50% of children)

  • Pain at the injection site

Very frequent
(less than 50% of children)

  • Redness or swelling at the injection site
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
Frequent
(less than 10% of children)
  • Fever or chills
  • Diarrhea, vomiting
  • Joint aches

Rarely
(less than 1% of children)

  • Swollen lymph nodes in the armpits

Most reactions last 1 to 2 days. They are most common after the second dose. Post-vaccination reactions are less common if doses are spaced 8 or more weeks apart.

Rare cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) or pericarditis (inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart) have been observed in older children and adults, most frequently after the 2nd dose. In clinical studies no cases were observed in children age 5 to 11, but a very low risk of myocarditis or pericarditis cannot be ruled out.

People age 12 and over

In a minority of people, the vaccine-induced reactions that prevent you from doing your daily activities for one or two days may occur. Reactions typically include fatigue, headache and muscle or joint pain. These reactions are less common in older adults. They are slightly more frequent after the 2nd dose.

Nature and frequency of known reactions to messenger RNA vaccines against COVID-19 in people age 12 and over

Frequency

Known reactions to these vaccines

In most cases
(more than 50% of people)

  • Pain at the injection site

Very often
(less than 50% of people)

  • Headache, fatigue*
  • Fever or chills
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Diarrhea, vomiting
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the armpits
Often
(less than 10% of people)
  • Redness or swelling at the injection site
    This reaction can appear more than a week after vaccination.

Rarely
(fewer than 1 in 1000 people)

  • Facial swelling
Very rarely (less than 1 person in 10,000)
  • Myocarditis or pericarditis in the days following vaccination**

* The majority of young people age 12–15 experience fatigue or a headache.

** In young people age 12 to 29, this may be less common with the Pfizer vaccine.

Fatigue, headache, and muscle and joint pain occur more often after the 2nd dose.

Myocarditis or pericarditis occur more frequently in young males under the age of 30 in the days following the 2nd dose of COVID-19 messenger RNA vaccine. Cases present most often with mild symptoms and recover quickly.

Approximately 2 in 100,000 people may have a serious allergic reaction after being given an RNA-based vaccine. This reaction is more common than is usually expected after a vaccine, but is still very rare.

What to do after vaccination

Recommendations to follow in the minutes after vaccination

Wait 15 minutes before you leave the place where you were given the vaccine. If an allergic reaction occurs, the symptoms will appear a few minutes after you get vaccinated.

If you have side effects, tell the person who gave you the vaccine immediately. They can treat you there.

Recommendations to follow at home

If you experience redness, pain or swelling at the injection site, apply a cold damp compress.

If necessary, take pain or fever medication.

When to consult

Consult a doctor if any of the following apply to you:

  • You have serious or unusual symptoms.
  • You develop chest pain, palpitations or shortness of breath.
  • Your symptoms get worse instead of better.
  • Your symptoms last more than 48 hours.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and you are not a priority client, it is recommended that you do a rapid test at home. If you are unable to get rapid tests, self-isolate respecting the Instructions for people with COVID-19.

Health instructions

The start of vaccination does not mean the end of health measures. It will take several months to protect a sufficiently large proportion of the population. It is essential to continue to follow the health instructions until further notice.

Why continue to protect yourselves after you’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19?